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Redemption at Ennis Lake: my new photos and how I processed them.
avatar July 28, 2019 12:21PM
Let's start with the finish. Original images taken on Nikon D750, Sigma 20mm f/1.4 Art series, manual mode, 10sec, f/1.8, ISO 1600 or ISO 1200, auto WB. Set up on a tripod and using the camera's built-in intervolometer to take a series of 50 shots with 15 seconds between each photo. I did stop the series each setup before 50 shots were taken though.

So here is the story. If you saw the previous post, my prior attempt to do this a month before was using the same setup but with a Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 Art series DX lens on my FX body D750. Best I could achieve was an equivalent 27mm field of view, reduction of resolution due to in-body crop, and on top of that I botched the whole thing by not being careful to recheck focus.

In the time after that photo shoot, I purchased a Sigma 20mm f/1.4 Art series lens on Prime Day because the price was reduced to only a few dollars more than the Nikon 20mm f/1.8 lens, and there was no sales on the Nikon version I really was watching for. Sigma 20mm lenses will normally be priced about $100 more than the Nikon version. That resolved the big compromise I had to make on the last shoot. Next I finally found the county's web site for the park, and discovered that the particular park this lake is at has operating hours and is closed 10pm to 5am. But there is no gate at all. That means some stealth is required to do this, 10:30pm to midnight was the time for best alignment of the Milky Way and optimal darkness. I had to break any pattern I was using and be a bit unpredictable to any local sheriff deputies on the lookout. Whistle And I needed the moon to be below the horizon at the time of taking photos, with clear skies. This all lined up (barely) on this past Wednesday night.

Photos were taken, and I left with only hearing the coyotes howling nearby once while there. The fact that there have been wolves wandering around this part of the state in the past was incentive not to overstay my visit. Wink Now here is how the processing went.

First thing, I use a program called Sequatur to automate stacking many images. It will align the stars with each other and compensate for the rotation of Earth between photos, and also separate the sky from the non-moving foreground to remove all motion blur in the final photo. There are also options for fixing light pollution and HDR expansion. I spent an entire evening running the stack with different options until I found the optimal combination that gave what I wanted in the sky. However, I did not like what it did to the foreground elements. Those images next:

So I loved the sky parts, hated the ground parts. But I have some tricks up my sleeve. I can put some of my night/day lume shot experience to use on this. I need to take one of the single images, process it for a pleasing foreground, then paste that as a layer over the stacked-processed photos. First I will show the straight JPG image (resized), then the processed image I used (made from a RAW file, not the JPG) that was pasted as a new layer over the top of the stacked images.

EDIT: The final images are not using these single-picture foregrounds anymore. I created new foreground pictures again with Sequator with the HDR and light pollution processing turned off. That made a pleasing exposure with minimal noise. I also made 2 separate layers of foreground so I could process and tune the tree on the right side separately. But otherwise the same process combining the 3 images together.

Now the part that makes it all work. Create a layer mask on the top image, then paint a gradient-fill black-to-white right where I want the transition between the upper and lower image to be. In this case right over the trees on the lakeshore. Since that part of the layer mask is a smooth-transition light to dark gray, it becomes a gradual fade from upper to lower layer of the image. I do this with night-day images, but I compress the transition zone a lot more. I just experimented until I found the right transition. If a localized area needs some extra erasing or should not be erased, I just use the airbrush tool with the layer mask and paint it.

That is the story, and you now have my experience to build on.

BF Hammer - the new and improved screen name of Chris L

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/02/2019 08:37AM by BF Hammer.
Subject Author Views Posted
Redemption at Ennis Lake: my new photos and how I processed them. Jpeg Attachments BF Hammer 453 July 28, 2019 12:21PM
I have incoming a professional print made from the 2nd photo. BF Hammer 333 October 04, 2019 02:24PM
Just to give a follow-up on the aluminum print. Thumbs Down for the seller. BF Hammer 168 October 26, 2019 03:12PM
That's why I stick to daytime shots. Nice results, but way too much work. Smile Cheers! (n/t) Robmks 217 July 28, 2019 01:32PM

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